Embracing the Pivot
Based in Detroit, Michigan, four-year-old company foodjunky.com is poised to take on the big competition in the on-line food order/delivery arena. With restaurants scraping out a living on 13.5% margins, the food-order referral business is in hot water. When founder Travis Johnson first launched foodjunky.com, he followed the (lunch) crowd and set his business model on charging restaurants a 5% fee for on-line lunch orders from crabby, hungry professionals. Hey, cash-rich GrubHub charges as much as 30%; why shouldn’t a fledgling start-up? Not surprisingly, foodjunky.com failed to sign up restaurants and generate revenue. So, two years after their first launch, Johnson and his team completely revamped their business model and website. At the end of 2015, foodjunky.com is adding new restaurants across the country at a rate of 1,000 per month.
We recently talked to Travis Johnson to find out how their new “recipe” is doing.
BDL: What makes your business different from your competition?
Johnson: Our competition has made the restaurant, not the person eating the food, the customer. So, you have to make your customers happy. But, how can you do that when you’re charging them outrageously high fees for rush-time orders? foodjunky.com has made the end user, specifically large food orders for office meetings and events, our customer. And we only charge a small fee for the total order. We provide restaurants with large business orders, which on average come two days in advance with no charge to the restaurant. Why wouldn’t restaurant operators want to work with us? Also, if the customer has a problem with their order, we have customer service agents on hand to take care of issues right away. If a restaurant isn’t working out in terms of quality or service, we drop them. We can do that because they are a vendor and not a customer.
BDL: What do you consider to be your biggest accomplishment to date?
Johnson: We are very proud of hitting our goals in terms of vendors and the number of people we serve. But, building our team and company culture is what I’m really proud of. We’re documenting everything we do in our company “cookbook,” which spells out who we are and how we do things. Our top values are integrity, honesty, and a willingness to make changes—especially the hard ones.
BDL: If you could go back in time to the point you started your business and give yourself advice, what would you say?
Johnson: I knew I wanted to own a business since I was kid. But, after graduating college, I took a corporate cubicle job like most people my age and bought a lot of stuff—car, house, investment property. Even after advancing in my career, I wasn’t happy and wanted to strike out on my own. I had to sell most of my stuff, and it was the best thing I ever did. So, my advice to my younger self would be to stay in your parents’ basement and follow your real dreams.
BDL: What advice you have for other business owners?
Johnson: Starting a company is not rocket science. All it takes is drive and the wiliness to make decisions, with the understanding that you’re going to make lots of mistakes. Learn from everything. Don’t go into to something saying, “I already know this”; find out what you don’t you know. There is always something to be learned, and it’s up to you to find that.